Posted Oct 13 2018
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LFF 2018 Preview - Beautiful Boy

Dir: Felix Van Groeningen

Starring Steve Carell, Tomothee Chalamet, Maua Tierney, Amy Ryan

In some ways, Beautiful Boy feels like a familiar tale being retold. We’ve all seen those countless TV movies-of-the-week about decent middle class parents struggling to cope when their teen offspring turn to drugs. It’s ripped from the headlines stuff, and this indeed is based on a true story – that of noted journalist David Sheff, and his beautiful boy Nic – both of whom have subsequently penned memoirs of their mutual experience here, both of their works being used as the basis for Von Groeningen’s movie.

What elevates this (still imperfect) film however are, very simply, the two central performances. Steve Carell impresses is a way we have not seen from him before as an actor. It’s not a perfect performance but it is sincere and utterly understandable, as the father faced with the nightmare of seeing his child slip away from him and, despite all his affinity for researching his subjects, unable to find a way to make things better.

It is however Chalamet who owns the movie. His ability to play “high” without resorting to cliché, and to find the pain and sense of loss and just plain lack of understanding in what drives his actions is remarkably astute and accomplished, and often deeply moving and touching. It is a performance so assured that his second Oscar nom in as many years (supporting, we think) is all but guaranteed.

Von Groeningen’s film is at times a little too stately, a little too reliant on pauses in awkward conversations to suggest its sincerity, but it is very strong on allowing these characters to interact. And, to be fair, it does its best to stay away from sentimentality, which is one of its saving graces.

Great soundtrack too, with everyone from Bowie to Nirvana to Neil Young to the titular Lennon song. But it’s Chalamet that tips it over the edge into something worthwhile.

Beautiful Boy plays the LFF on 13, 14 & 16 October

More info @ www.bfi.org.uk/lff

 

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